Dozens of soldiers will compete in the Army’s 2018 Best Sapper Competition, but this year the competition will have a new name.
Soldiers will now compete in the Lieutenant General Robert B. Flowers Best Sapper Competition, to honor the 50th chief of engineers who was instrumental in creating the competition.
The three-day competition, which officially starts on Monday at Fort Leonard Wood in Missouri, tests combat engineers on various skills. It includes a ruck march, exam, team-building events, strength and endurance events, technical events, land navigation and an X-Mile Run.
Flowers ensured soldiers received leadership training through the Sapper Leader Course, and he advocated for those who passed the course to wear the Sapper Tab, which was authorized for permanent wear in June 2004.
In 1998, when Flowers was the commanding general at Fort Leonard Wood, a retiring sergeant major said Flowers needed to do something to help the sappers.
The sergeant major relayed a story about serving in Vietnam as a combat engineer assigned to the 101st Airborne Division. He and his battle buddy were assigned to the infantry platoon, where they fought against the Vietcong.
The combat engineers were given a Combat Infantryman’s Badge, which was then taken away since the engineers weren’t infantrymen.
He told Flowers that when combat engineers go into battle with the infantry, they have nothing to show for it.
“I started the campaign to try to get a recognition badge for sappers because we had initiated a school at Fort Leonard Wood called the Sapper Leader Course to train junior officers and noncommissioned officers to lead sappers in combat,” Flowers told Army Times.
Flowers said it’s a very demanding school, yet there was no badge of recognition for completing it.
Two first-time participants beat 49 other teams.
However, the general’s request kept getting turned down.
“The Army felt there were too many badges on the Army uniform and we didn’t need another one,” Flowers said.
Right before Flowers retired in 2004, he reinitiated the request with the Army chief of staff.
It was finally approved.
“When that happened, I felt like I had honored my commitment to the sergeant major,” Flowers said.
He said he was honored when he found out the Best Sapper Competition was to be renamed after him.
“It’s nice when you’ve been retired as long as I have to be remembered and be brought back for an honor like this,” he said.
Flowers will be recognized during a dedication ceremony at Fort Leonard Wood on Monday, where he will be presented with an honorary Sapper Tab.
The retired general said the competition is an opportunity for combat engineers to come together and be recognized for their accomplishments, as well as to meet sapper units from around the world.
“When one nation needs a tough job done, they call in the Army,” Flowers said. “When the Army needs a tough job done, they call in the sappers.”